Using its experiences and findings, the Human Rights Ombudsman has taken part in the preparation of the new report by the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) on the gaps in human rights accountability at European borders. The report is expected to contribute to a greater understanding of the factors that lie behind those gaps.
The Ombudsman and other National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have used the report to document the major Europe-wide gaps in accountability. They conclude that the lack of working systems of accountability has contributed to the spread of human rights violations at borders. The report uncovers shortcomings in five key areas connected to human rights accountability: structural gaps, gaps in investigation, gaps in access to justice, gaps in revision and prevention, and gaps in promoting a culture of rights.
Ensuring accountability at borders requires the political will of national and regional authorities to proactively eliminate the numerous deficiencies within the system. These relate, among other things, to the collection of information at borders, the accessibility, effectiveness and independence of investigative authorities, access to information and legal assistance for migrants, improvements to legislation, policy and practice, and the restoration of a culture of rights. The report goes on to conclude that EU institutions should also ensure that future legislative proposals contribute to increasing accountability for human rights violations at borders and not to widening existing gaps. Additionally, EU institutions have an important role to play in exercising oversight and holding states to account when they deviate from their legal obligations.
The report’s findings will serve as the basis for further exchange between NHRIs and other partners. This will, in turn, lead to the preparation of recommendations for filling the gaps that have been identified.